There’s just something about a great grocery store that always gets me going, especially international ones. I love food markets with unique packaged goods, different variations of prepared foods, and all the drinks and candies covered with foreign designs. Digging through edible wonders that have traveled far and wide to reach our shelves can be addicting. It’s the best way to discover a new dish or ingredient that may quickly become a part of your weekly diet. If you’re looking for a new place like this to shop and explore, you’re in luck, because San Francisco has a ton.
My current favorite is Woori Food Market, an inconspicuous Korean grocery store chock-full of Asian goodies. On Fillmore Street at Geary Boulevard, Woori’s shelves and refrigerated cases are packed with all kinds of tofu and soybean-pastes, dried noodles and instant soups, and a bunch of fresh produce. But what makes Woori truly special are the prepared foods to go. The three-year-old Woori doubles as a catering business, and what most people may not see past the crowded, narrow interior is the fully staffed, commercial-sized kitchen beyond the back wall. It’s responsible for the copious amounts of homemade kimchi — ranging from Napa cabbage to cucumber and radish — whole grilled fish, onigiri, and braised pork shanks.
Once you enter, you’ll be faced with a case full of different varieties of freshly made gimbap. Gimbap looks like a sushi roll in the sense that it’s white rice wrapped in nori with colorful fillings in the center. Usually containing pickled radish, carrot, egg, and spinach, most gimbap is either vegetarian or filled with sliced beef. At Woori, they play with the traditional recipe and on any given day could be serving tuna salad gimbap, spicy anchovy, or even cheese. If you’re a big sushi eater, they’re a fun twist on something that seems so familiar but which might be a little bit different. Other standouts on Woori’s menu are the jeon — half-dollar-sized combination pancakes with anything from seafood to kimchi — different types of banchan, and even more exotic side dishes like nakji jutgal, or spicy pickled octopus. The menu is large and it’s always changing, so you never know what you’re going to find.
We all could probably take a little more time to prepare lunch in the morning, to stay in shape or save a buck, but because of places like Woori, maybe we don’t need to. The portions are perfect, the recipes are healthy, and the prices are right.
Woori Market, 1528 Fillmore St, 415-673-9887 or woorisf.com